The UCSB women’s water polo team will try to climb the national rankings this weekend when it takes on two of the top teams in the country.

After last weekend’s tough loss to Irvine, the #9 Gauchos (3-2 overall, 0-1 in the Mount Pacific Sports Federation) will host #8 San Diego (2-2 overall) on Saturday before traveling south Sunday to face top-ranked UCLA (7-0 overall).

San Diego has dominated the Gauchos as of late, winning the last four meetings and taking 13 of the last 15 games the teams have played, but UCSB Head Coach Danielle Altman said her team has what it takes to defeat the Aztecs.

“They’re big and strong, but we’re faster and deeper. We have to out-hustle them,” Altman said. “They’re a solid program but every year’s a new year. We’re going to be focused. San Diego State’s ranked ahead of us so we have to step up and beat them.”

Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, the Gauchos will face their toughest test of the season thus far when they hit the road Sunday to take on UCLA. The undefeated Bruins recently won the Stanford Invitational after beating defending national champion USC in the tournament’s championship game.

Despite UCLA’s impressive start to the season, and UCSB’s disappointing conference-opening loss to Irvine, Altman said she is confident going into Sunday’s game.

“We had a tough loss, but we have to use this as a wake-up call to get us up to our potential,” Altman said. “I do feel like we can beat anybody. We play great defense and we get our offense off of that.”

The Gauchos’ offense has shown off the team’s outstanding depth. Ten different Gauchos have scored thus far in the young season, with five different players scoring against Irvine alone. Juniors Alaina Whitaker and Jennifer D’Anna lead the team in scoring with 11 and seven goals, respectively.

“We have a lot of depth and that’s shown with our scoring,” Altman said. “Jen and Alaina really establish our offense, but we’ll be looking to a lot of players to step up.”

After falling behind 4-0 in the first quarter of its game against Irvine, Santa Barbara will try to get off to better starts in its upcoming contests.

“We have to establish ourselves. We have to play better in the first quarter.” Altman said.